Turkish president’s spokesman cautions against U.S. long-term plans in Syria

In an opinion piece published on Saturday 17th February, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalın questioned the U.S.’s long-term intentions in Syria.

Writing in the Turkish daily Sabah, Kalın implied that U.S. activities in Syria do not align with goals shared by major stakeholders involved in the ongoing conflict, namely clearing Syria of terrorists, maintaining the country’s territorial integrity and establishing a legitimate and inclusive government.

Rather, Kalın suggests continued U.S. collaboration with groups in Syrian associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), such as the Democratic Union Party's (PYD) and People's Protection Units (YPG) undermines efforts to achieve these shared objectives, and is rather motivated by U.S. geo-political ambitions in the region.  

“The issue for the U.S. is no longer defeating Daesh or keeping Bashar Assad in power for Iran, but rather grabbing geo-political positions in Syria. U.S. officials do not hide the fact that they will stay in Syria for the foreseeable future as a countervailing force against Iran. Thus, Syrian territories are turning into a proxy war scene between the U.S., Israel and some Gulf countries on the one hand, and Iran, Russia and Hezbollah, on the other. This does not bode well for anyone. There will be no winners in this show of power.”

Kalin also repeated the Turkish government’s frequent, and so far largely unheeded, calls for the U.S. to withdraw support from the YPG and to ensure the YPG relinquishes its control of the Manbij, a strategically important Syrian city that has been under its control since 2016, much to Turkey’s annoyance.

“The U.S. should start the process of disengaging from the YPG and move it out of Manbij and to east of Euphrates. Turkey and the U.S. forces working with local people can insure the Manbij area. There is a model that has worked for this purpose in the area between Jarablus and al-Ray, cleared from Daesh by Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield, which has no Daesh, no YPG and no regime forces. And it poses no threat to anyone. The same can easily happen in Manbij.”